Where Was I?



1. What, 'tis past midnight, and you go the rounds,
   And here you trap me at an alley's end
   Where sportive ladies leave their doors ajar?

2. That's Judas to a button, that man is!
   Just such a frown!  Why, sir, you ask pardon.
   Lord, I'm not angry!

3.                       Bid your hang-dogs go
   Pour out this quarter-florin to the health
   Of the munificent House that harbours me...

4.                       Down I lowered myself,
   Hand over hand, scrambling somehow, and so dropped,
   And followed hard.

5. You snap me of the sudden.  Ah, I see!
   Though your eye twinkles still, you shake your head---
   Mine's tonsured---a monk, you say---the sting's in that!

6.                       A fine chilly day,
   My belly being as empty as that hat,
   The wind battered me and I tumbled.

7.          Brief, the brothers made a monk of me;
   I did renounce the world, its pride and greed,
   Palace, farm, villa, shop, and banking-house...

8. "Nay," quoth the prior, "turn him out, would you?
   No how!  Let go a crow and catch a lark.
   What if we finally have our prodigy..."

9. The monks closed in a circle and praised heartily
   Till checked, told what to see and not to see,
   Being simple bodies---

10. A fine way to limn soul, by daubing body
    So ill, the eye can't rest there, must go further
    And can't fare worse!

11. Yet still the old schooling sticks, the severe old eyes
    Keep peeping over my shoulder while I work,
    The brows furrow still---

12. You follow me:  I'm a beast, I know.
    But see, now---why, I see as certainly
    As that the morning-star's about to shine...

13.                       What's it all about?
    To be passed over, despised?  or mulled over,
    Marveled at?  oh, this last of course!---you say...

14. What need of art at all?  A skull and bones,
    Two slats of wood mounted crossways, or, what's best,
    A bell to peal upon the hour, does as well.

15. Mazed, unmoving, and moonstruck---I'm the man!
    Back I shrink---what is this I see and hear?
    I, caught up with my monk's-things by mistake...

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